We follow Abram, Sarai and Lot into Canaan today. From this “pared down family” God would build for Himself a new family. They are following God’s call.
Imagine waking up one day and God speaking a promise to you like He did to Abram. It has been eleven generations since we have seen such a might promise of God. This doesn’t mean God hasn’t made other promises to other people or even some smaller promises, but this one is BIG and He wants us to pay attention to it.
I just received a vision of a plant growing and being pruned back over and over again to create an even more magnificent and healthier plant. Adam was the first growth. From him spread out MANY branches. As the tree grew the parts closest to the “heart” of the tree remained strong and true to the original tree. Branches further out became “wild” and stopped bearing good fruit. This tree was then pruned back HARD and only the trunk remained. This was the time of Noah. The tree began to grow again this process was repeated. The second pruning wasn’t as severe as the first in terms of “branches burned” but it took our tree back down to the healthy trunk again. Enter Abram. This tree would grow again with a “cage around it” to shape it to some degree, like a Bonsai tree. But there was another pruning on the horizon. This pruning would be done by Jesus’ work. Our tree is blooming and growing again with the trunk showing some outstanding growth rings and the heart remaining strong. But this is not the end of our tree’s story. There is still another pruning to come. Those will happen in the promises of Revelation. Before the final pruning the branches will become unrestrained for a time. MANY will go totally wild and the branches will be so gnarled that the tree will be almost unrecognizable. But there will still be those at the heart of the tree that remain faithful and strong. The final pruning will be at the hands of Jesus again but this time as He comes as the conquering King. After the last pruning there will be regrowth again. Finally the tree will be harvested and those of the rings of the heart of the tree will be counted and rewarded for remaining true to the center of the tree. A “tree of lives” wrapped around God’s heart.
Abram is the new beginning or second pruning. I wonder if Abram had any real concept of what God had in store for him when He called him that day. Let’s join him as he begins this journey.
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Abram is in the field watching as his servants are shearing the sheep. He loves coming out and watching this process. He is also not afraid to get his hands dirty and join in the job. He, Terah and Lot used to do this job alone when they first started their heard. That was many years and many sheep ago! They have prospered in Haran, beyond his wildest dreams. God has truly blessed him in business. But something is still missing; an heir. Abram tries not to think on this too much, or bring it up to Saria. Who is to know when God will see fit to bless him in this part of his life. He is only five years older than his father when he was born. There is still hope.
While watching the men, God speaks to this hidden hurt in Abram’s heart. “Abram, I’m going to make a great nation out of you.”
Abram has learned the voice of God by listing to Him throughout his life. Terah taught him the importance of seeking God’s will from the time he could walk. But Abram wonders what God could mean by this statement. What kind of “nation” would he be? He has no children. He has no heir beyond his servants. What does God have in mind? “What do You want from me Lord? Speak. Your servant is listening.”
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (verses 1b-2).
This is a BIG request! Abram had already left most of his immediate family when he and Sarai agreed to travel to Canaan with Terah and Lot. Now God was telling him to even leave Terah. “God, do You really mean for me to strike out all alone?! I’ve never been without family of some kind. But I will do as You command.”
Abram rushes back to Saria and tells her of his conversation with God. “God has told me today that He wants me to leave my family behind and that He will bless me for this sacrifice. He said He will make a nation of me!”
Saria is a compliant wife and will go wherever Abram decides. But she can’t help but latch onto the same promise that Abram did. “He is going to make a nation of my husband! That must mean that I be a mother to that nation. Thank You Lord for finally answering my prayer!!!”
Abram goes to Terah next and tells him of the call God has placed on him. “That’s AMAZING my son! Nothing is impossible for the Lord. A nation needs resources so please take the sheep and servants with you. I will keep a small portion with me to sustain me here. Also take Lot with you. He has little future here. Maybe it will be through him that the Lord blesses you. He is, after all, your brother’s only heir.”
Abram agrees to Terah’s wishes and begins readying his “new nation” for its journey. There are a LOT of people and livestock coming on this journey so there is quite a bit of preparation to be done before they can leave.
The morning of departure dawns and God hasn’t specified a destination for Abram yet. Abram and Terah stand watch as the last donkeys are being loaded. “Where will you go my son?”
“I’m not sure father. The Lord has not given me a specific destination yet.”
“Maybe you should follow my original plan and go on towards Canaan. I always felt that God was directing me towards that destination. I didn’t have it in me to finish that journey but maybe I wasn’t supposed to. Maybe that was for you to do.”
“That sounds reasonable. I will follow your advice and complete your journey, unless and until God directs me to do otherwise.”
Lot comes running up to Abram and Terah. “The men say they are ready. They are just waiting for you to give them their directions. This is so exciting! I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for us.”
“Patience young man. Our future will wait one more hour. We need to seek God and ask Him to guide this journey and for His protection before we leave. Please gather the heads of the caravans and meet us under that tree over there.”
Lot rushes off to gather the leaders and bring them all together for the travelers’ blessing. Abram gets Saria and moves to the tree with her and Terah. Once everyone is assembled, Abram asks Terah to bless them as they head out.
“Lord of Heaven and earth; watch over my son and his family as they follow Your will. Guide their steps and protect them as they faithfully follow You. Watch over his servants and his livestock. I commit him into Your hands.”
Abram closes this prayer with his own words to God. “Lead me where You will Lord. Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.”
No booming voice sounds from Heaven as the group concludes its prayer and neither is there a new direction in Abram’s heart. So to Canaan they go.
This is a slow journey because of the size of the herds and number of people accompanying Abram, Sarai and Lot. They are not worried or hurried. Abram keeps searching his heart every day to see if God is giving him a new direction.
One day Abram approaches Lot as Lot is helping to keep the sheep and shepherds moving. “Lot, you have been a great help on this journey. I think it is time I repay your hard work. Pick for yourself one fourth of the sheep and I will give you one fourth of the servants as your own. Choose wisely because you will be responsible for each life entrusted to you.”
“Thank you uncle! I won’t disappoint you. I will also make sure that I am fair and don’t pick only the best from your goods.”
Abram laughs. “I know you will be fair but also make sure that you pick wisely. This will be the start of your own herds. It will need to be strong for your future.”
Lot searches through Abram’s herds and sets aside his own new possessions. He chooses with care and gratitude. Abram chooses among the herders and servants as to who will now tend Lot’s flocks. The two bands are then distinguished and separated by a small distance between them to ensure they don’t remix as the journey continues. Both herds continue to grow and strengthen during the rest of the journey.
Canaan is a bountiful country. It is lush with grasses for grazing and grows so many fruits that the women are overjoyed with the choices for feeding the families. No one will go hungry in this land! There were many people already living here but there was still plenty of room for Abram and all who had come with him.
When Abram and company reached Shechem the camped for the night near the oak of Moreh. “Where to now Lord” Abram asks. “We have reached Canaan. We have actually been traveling in its borders for several days. Am I to continue on or do You want me to change directions? I need Your guidance Lord.”
Just as Abram finishes his prayer and angel of the Lord appeared to him. This angel spoke directly for the Lord to Abram. “To your offspring I will give THIS land” (verse 7b, emphasis added).
Abram was very grateful for the land that God had chosen for him and that God had indeed promised that Abram would have “offspring” of his own. He was so overjoyed that he built an altar to the Lord right there and sacrificed his best lamb. “Thank You Lord for Your promises.” This altar would serve two purposes: 1) a place to give immediate thanks to God and 2) a marker that he could find later to begin marking the boundaries of his new nation.
A few days later Abram decided to continue to look around the new area. He didn’t feel God had called him to set down roots just yet. He didn’t know what God’s ultimate plan was but he knew it included children. He figured he had time to look about since Saria wasn’t pregnant yet.
Abram found a beautiful spot in the hill country east of Bethel. He stayed there for a while and again built an altar to the Lord. This too would be part of his inheritance. It felt good to see the land blessed by the Lord.
This wasn’t the end of Abram’s wandering through the land. He moved on again, moving closer towards the Negeb. Wonder and praise filled every step of this journey. But there was still something missing; the “offspring.” In His time.
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Father God, thank You for Your promises. Thank You that ALL Your promises are true. I don’t have to wonder which ones You will keep and which ones were bait to get my attention. A lot of Your promises are hidden within the folds of Your words and I don’t really have a grasp on them but, like Abram, I trust You in spite of my limited sight. He had no idea what all would be required when he set out but he set out nonetheless. Let me be like him in that respect. I know I’m like him in the stumbling at times area that we will look at tomorrow. Thank You for bearing with me and him, even in these times. I look forward to seeing what You have in store for my life!